For us the New Year starts with a flurry of interest, questions and requests from potential customers who want to join a Box Scheme. On January 2nd we received six such emails. On the following day – three more. The first week ended with us replying and explaining the rules to more than ten people.
This must be their New Year resolution, or one of them – to lead a healthier lifestyle, to eat more fruit and veg, to support a local farmer, to be more environmentally friendly.. Who knows!
If this trend lasted at least for 6 months, we would more than double the number of customers. We would double the business. We would struggle to grow enough veg for our Box Scheme. We would be able to pay decent salaries to our staff and even – pay ourselves. But allas!
How many of those ten interested people will become real customers?
First, we need to make sure they live or work in an area where we deliver. And this is rather limited, to Oxford, Reading, Wallingford, Pangbourne and Whitchurch. No point offering something to a customer in London, Bracknell or even Witney, as we don’t get that far. We are truly small and local, and cover at most 25 miles.
Second, we need to match their address with one of our local Reps’, within 2 miles walking distance. We do not deliver door-to-door, apart from local customers in Whitchurch and Pangbourne. This helps keep the prices fair to buyers. It also adds an important social element by encouraging customers to meet their Reps, communicate, chat with each other and sometimes – swap unwanted veg. It is an old system, we know it is falling out of fashion, with people liking convenience and choice, but we are trying to preserve it as long as we can, by this supporting community spirit and local initiatives. Imagine, an email came from someone living 184 feet away from our Rep. 184 feet away! And he did not know about our deliveries in the area.
Will he join the Box Scheme? We don’t know. Once he learns about his local delivery point, he needs to actually place an order on-line. Sounds easy, but it is yet another step from the New Year resolution to the actual making it happen. I am yet to see his order.
And then – payment. Some well-meaning people will place the order, but never actually pay, which will mean – no delivery.
And the last challenge – sticking to it. Liking the range of veg we supply in winter takes some courage, as it is mainly roots, cabbages, onion and squashes. And yes, some fantastic dark greens in form of kale, salad mixes or even Pak Choy. But this is far from the supermarket offer, with chard, spinach, parsley and cucumbers. And this is where the main test comes in – cooking with what Nature is offering, being local and seasonal. How many customers will like the idea?
We try to post recipes and cooking ideas on the website, especially when we offer some new (kalettes, winter radish) or too boring veg (this year – beetroot, beetroot, beetroot), oh and did I mention beetroot?
So, you can see, to get a new customer is not straightforward. To make a New Year resolution happen is probably even harder.
Of those 10 emails we so far have got one first-time order. Will it stay? Will it be there for us in a few months? We can only hope and do our best to deliver.